. Monday, January 14, 2019 .

After an incredibly long break of a few days, another post is here! While traveling in Nikko, a post that will say the light of day a lot later, I managed to pick up a nasty cold before heading back to Tokyo so I haven't been able to crank out posts like I used to.

But I finally got around to sharing what is one of the best days during our Japan trip so far: our trip to Odaiba! I had no idea what to expect when we were heading over because I'd never been there before, but it totally blew us away. 

Here is our video!

After our hour-long train ride to Tokyo Teleport station, we arrived at Venus Fort, which is a multilevel shopping center that's right outside the station. I had planned for us to get some lunch there, and I will admit that we got lost trying to find the food court. While walking around looking for food, we noticed that Venus Fort was scarily similar to a regular mall you could find in New York, all the stores were foreign imported goods and they even had a Pinkberry! 


Venus Fort did have some lovely art displays, like the huge beachball collection with lights and the color changing fountain. These were huge and stunning!

Since Vincent isn't a big shopper and I wasn't too keen on anything I saw, we managed to locate the food court and decided to get some ramen. They had a few flavors, but I decided on the black garlic ramen because I love garlic! 

Sad to say, this ramen did not love me back. Vincent followed suit and got the same thing but we were both left dissatisfied by it. The flavor was more 'liquid smoke' than garlic and overall was pretty weak. This started a string of unsatisfactory meals that carried on for a few days, but you'll hear more about that later.

Feeling meh, we decided to head straight for the onsen and began following the path there. Google estimated it would take about 20 minutes, and in those 20 minutes, we saw maybe 2 or 3 people. It was DEAD. It was dead to a point where we felt kind of creeped out, asking ourselves 'Where is everyone?'.

When we made it to the hot spring we came across a small group of people and breathed a sigh of relief. The hot spring we decided to go to is called Oedo Onsen Monogatari, and it includes indoor and outdoor baths, a sauna, spa services, and a full array of games and food. They tried to recreate an Edo  (?) style feeling throughout, and what resulted was an amazing and immersive hot spring experience that Vincent and I really enjoyed.

They gave us both yukata to wear and Vincent looked so handsome in his! I had some trouble tying mine because I'd never put one on before, but a nice woman in the changing room showed me how. Vincent said on his side there was a diagram, lucky!

I didn't get to film actually going into the hot spring (of course) but the outdoor ones were incredible. It was a bit chilly, being that Odaiba is very close to the water, and sitting in the hot water on the rocks was incredible. The onsen was busy, but not crowded, so I sat in an outdoor bath by myself. The baths are separated by gender, so Vincent got his own onsen experience he details in the video.

Perhaps most surprising of all was Vincent's eagerness to try 'Doctor Fish', which are tiny fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet. We sat in the fish infested water for 15 minutes, and Vincent's reaction is priceless. His feet are VERY sensitive, to the point where he won't even let me touch them, so I knew I had to record the fish nibbling on him!

Before we headed home for the night we decided to ride what once was (in 1999) the world's largest Ferris wheel. I want to preface this saying that I had a bad experience on a Ferris wheel once, so I am not a big fan of them. This one goes especially high up, and Vincent wonderfully documented my gradual freakout as we were getting to the peak. 

Quote: 'Whoo! We're at the highest point right now. If we die we will definitely not feel any pain :)'

Hope you enjoyed the video! Stay tuned for more ~

. Thursday, January 10, 2019 .

Our Harajuku day has come! I was really excited to go to Harajuku, famous for Japanese fashion. 

We headed out at around 10am to meet a friend at a vegan place off the main strip. I had been there before with Amanda and had been raving about their incredible moringa salad dressing. You may know the blogger Frertsu, also known as Anna. We connected on Twitter a while back and she's living in Japan so we arranged to meet up! You can find her blog (and her latest posts) here! 

We went to the vegan restaurant Longing House. I highly recommend it for those on a vegan diet, the portions aren't as small as typical vegan places in Japan and they offer an all you can eat salad nook.

Anna got this yummy veggie sandwich! Vincent and I were ravenous and ate our food so quickly we didn't take photos! Oops!

Anna walked us down Takeshita Street, which is the hub for all kinds of Harajuku fashion, from Lolita to Goth to Cyber Pastel. I tried to find some cute clothes for Vincent, but he isn't into the 90's street style look that's quickly becoming the trend in Harajuku. There were also some nice vintage areas to buy clothes, but nothing stood out to me.

Here is our daily vlog!

After eating at the restaurant and walking around, we stumbled upon one of the many crepe shops in Harajuku. I decided to get a strawberry cheesecake crepe with red bean, which was delicious! I really enjoy crepes and I wish they were just as common in Albany (or maybe not because then I'd have them every day!).

After filling up on our sugary crepes we strolled over to Meiji Jingu Shrine, which is only a hop away from the Harajuku train station. I've been here once before, but just for a few minutes, so I was happy to take a long stroll through the grounds with Vincent and Anna. Vincent loves nature, so this was a wonderful experience for him to be surrounded by the beauty of the shrine and the quiet tranquility of the trees.

There were a lot of businessmen walking together to the shrine, perhaps part of a company outing that they might make during the new year. As we walked, Anna and I discussed blogging, where our blogs are headed this year, and life in Japan. She's been here for almost a year already, and she walked around with the confidence of an experienced Harajuku go-er. 

Even so, none of us had ever been to the Meiji Jingu Inner Garden before, and we came upon a sign that advertised entry for 500 yen. I admit I was apprehensive to go in because of the price and cold weather, but Vincent insisted that we go, so we call coughed up 500 yen and headed on inside.

I have to say, this was an excellent call. The garden, though not in bloom because of the winter season, was amazing. We walked around the carefully carved paths and gazed into the depths of the fishing spot, all while being surrounded by a quiet that would make you think the hustle and bustle of Harajuku was miles away.

We ended up walking over 18,000 steps that day, but we ended our day with aching feet and happy faces. We headed over to Shibuya to get some sushi near the train station and said our goodbyes to Anna. 

It was a lovely day, and I would recommend heading into Meiji Jingu Inner Garden the second you get the chance when summer arrives!

. Wednesday, January 9, 2019 .

On our third day in Japan, we headed out to Akihabara!

more explanation on this later! haha

In the itinerary that I planned, we scheduled wake up time of around 8 am to make sure that we would have plenty of time to make it to the @home cafe (maid cafe) for breakfast. @home cafe opens at 10am, and with our Airbnb being about an hour away it gave us just enough time to catch the opening. 

I may have explained this briefly in my previous video or post but I recently became very interested in some of the maids working at @home cafe. I went to the @home cafe website to check out the maids before I went and found that they have an extensive list of information about the maids, photos, and links to their Twitter accounts. 

The main maid I became interested in is named Arthur. You can find her Twitter account here. 

Here is our video!

There are two locations for @home cafe, one of which is above a Don Quijote. If you head up to the 5th floor you can find the maid cafe after circling around the corner and following the cute pink wallpaper. When we arrived it was a bit too early so we looked around a bit before forming a small line. By the time the cafe opened, there was a line of about 5 people that consisted of middle-aged men, Vincent and myself. 

I was surprised to see that they automatically matched us with a maid that spoke English to try and accommodate us. Her name is Pikapi and she was really kind to us, offering to explain everything in English. I explained that I was really excited to see Arthur and was wondering if I could request her. I then found out the system this particular maid cafe operates on: you get to choose the maid you take a photo with (if you buy a photo set) and for the other activities such as writing on your food or making your water 'moe moe', it's done by whatever maid is free at the moment to do so.

I was pretty disappointed by this at first because I really wanted Arthur to do everything but I found that this was a really good way to get to know the other maids! We got to spend more time talking to Pikapi who was very charming! She hasn't made a Twitter yet but when she does I'm definitely going to link it. 

I decided to go light on the food because I expected to go to another maid cafe at around noon to see another maid I liked so I just ordered a dessert set. Vincent ordered the omurice and asked Pikapi if she could draw him on top of the rice in ketchup. She did an awesome job!

After having such a great and personal experience, I was hyped up to get to the next maid cafe. Another maid I liked named Cammy was scheduled to work at noon so I ran over there to see if she could serve me. Since that store is the main location, it was significantly more busy than the one in Don Quijote, and Cammy didn't have much time to serve us. I felt a little disappointed, but I tried to use this time to scout out more cute maids to follow on Twitter.

I also learned they had an app, and I'm obsessed with it already.

Overall I'm really over the moon with my maid cafe experience and would recommend it in a heartbeat (if you speak Japanese). I will say that the price isn't cheap, about 5000 yen in total for a basic dessert and food set (2 people). But it is an experience unlike any other, and you're paying for the experience!

After our meals from both maid cafes, we headed over to Taito Station to do some gaming and take our first purikura! Purikura is Japanese sticker photobooths that dispense cute, often themed photos! The one we did cost 400 yen and we got to get 2 digitally downloaded for free (one of which you saw above). The rest of the shots we took shown in the video are stickers that we currently carry in our wallets. As soon as I get back to America I've gotta scan it!

After purikura, I really wanted Vincent to get a taste of Karaoke so we headed over to Karaoke Kan to do some singing. We originally signed up for one hour but we had so much fun we extended it to two! I hope you can enjoy our terrible singing, I've put it at the end of the video for your listening pleasure! haha

All in all, we had a really fun day in Akihabara and would love to do it again!

. Sunday, January 6, 2019 .

I'm happy to announce that I'm back in Japan and this time I brought my boyfriend with me! It's always been a dream of mine to travel around Japan with him and we decided back in September that we should make this dream come true!

Once we decided we wanted to stay in Tokyo, I booked the flight pretty much that week. So far, the goal is to try and update videos every night of what we were up to during the day but we're probably going to be around a day behind. I'm having a few camera issues at the moment, so expect this post to go up around our second day in Japan. It took me 4 hours to upload a single video :(

I wanted to start our Japan series off by showing our flight! 

We flew Premium Economy from JFK, and it was really nice! We had awesome legroom and the Japan Airlines staff was as attentive as ever, but I knew from the getgo that I would have trouble sleeping in a traditional plane seat. We were able to recline our seats out pretty far, but it only bought me 4 hours or so of rest. 

I took some videos of the vegan food I received on the flight, but because we were in and out of sleep randomly I actually forgot to capture the dinner meal. Regardless, both Vincent and I really liked the food!

On our first day, we headed to Sensoji Temple!

The next video contains footage from our first official day traveling around, which is when we went to Sensoji Temple and the surrounding area Asakusa and Ueno areas. It's only been one day but we both had a lot of fun and I can honestly say that doing this together is so much better than any time I've ever gone just by myself. 

Check out the video here!

We headed out pretty early in the morning because the plane put our sleep out of whack. We ended up waking up at around 6 am, getting ready and leaving the house at around 7:25. This was good because we got to Sensoji before it got massively crowded, but bad because a lot of the vendors weren't open when we initially arrived.

We got to experience crowds though, don't worry! When we headed back to the temple later in the day for some shopping it was completely packed. We picked up a souvenir or two and then made our way to a nearby cat cafe to check it out.

While we were walking there we saw an advertisement for an 'Exotic animals cafe' and we were immediately interested. We had no idea how to get there though because the button on the elevator for that floor wasn't working. We stopped a man we found and asked about the second floor, and it turned out that he was the owner of the shop. He let us right in and explained the various animals he had.

There were otters, meerkats, lizards, geckos, and a fennec fox! You can see how cute these animals were in the video, as well as these cute snapshots :)

Fennec Fox

After we went to the animal cafe, we decided to walk around a bit more before heading to a local park. We sat and talked for a bit, ate some snacks, and then headed over to Ueno! I really wanted to see if I could get the final squishy for the series I was collecting but sadly the machine had been removed. We decided to get a little blue Daruma with tiny orbs inside which was super cute!

We walked around Ueno Park where we saw some shrines and tried to navigate the whole park. Needless to say, we walked over 18,000 steps! We tried to walk as much as possible to work up an appetite, and it worked! We had an early dinner at the Ueno location of Ichiran ramen, which was so delicious.

Ichiran Ramen

The jetlag kinda got us beat, we ended up going home and falling asleep at around 6pm. We tried to stay up to maintain a normal sleep schedule but it just wasn't in the cards.

Tomorrow is our Akihabara day so be on the lookout for that!

. Monday, December 31, 2018 .

Back in the beginning of 2017, I started this blog with the intention to document my language learning progress and eventual travel abroad, but ever since I've returned since my long time stay in Japan this blog has grown and evolved to just be a reflection of myself. 

The first post I ever made on this blog was setting my resolutions for 2017, which you can read here, and for 2019 I want to not only reflect upon the resolutions made in the past two years but also talk about how I've grown as a person since then!

Small side note: As you may have noticed I've done some cosmetic work here at sincerelyaliceblog.com :) I've got a new color scheme going and a new graphic at the top! Yay for change!

In my past few resolution posts, I noticed that my goals were a bit vague. I mainly said that I wanted to get better at Japanese, encourage more self-love, and lose some weight. These goals have stuck with me, but have remained largely undefined other than 'I want to get better at XXX'. When I make resolutions this year I want to make sure I set more concrete goals that I can check off at the beginning of next year. 

With that said, let's hop into my 2018 goals and see how I did!

2018 Goals (What I did and didn't accomplish)

⚠️ A work in progress
⭕ Success!
❌ Fail

Learn Conversational Chinese 

In my 2018 post, which you can read here, I stated that I wanted to learn conversational Chinese. This was a pretty lofty goal I was confident I was going to accomplish, and once I returned to America I realized I didn't have as much desire to learn as I thought I did. I think being around Amanda every day inspired me to try and learn, but once I was gone that desire deflated pretty quickly. I found out I just didn't have the drive to learn Chinese. I gave it a good shot for about a month using a few apps like Mango and Drops and ended up picking up some basic words and phrases, but ultimately this was a bust!

Reach my Goal Weight ❌

Japan was a really hard time for me when it came to my relationship with food. I really had a hard time controlling myself around sweets because it became an emotional outlet for me dealing with stress or conflict in my life. I had never turned to food like that before, and so I went out of control with it (in my opinion). Though I tried casually working out and eating generally healthy, when I weighed myself in November I was horrified to learn I was slightly heavier than I had been in Japan, which I thought was my worst. 

I started using MyFitnessPal again which really helped me in the past, but it's hard to log family made meals because you never know exactly what's inside. I'll be back in Japan in about a week, so I'm going to do my best to be more cautious about what I eat. I think my emotional state while in Japan contributed significantly to my disordered eating, so now that I'm doing well I'm not expected food to be a big problem.

Grow my Blog ⭕

I said that my ultimate stretch goal was 50k views by this time, but looking at my statistics this morning I noticed that I just hit 83,000 views! I'm astonished that my blog has gained so much traction, and I'm very grateful for all the comments and feedback I've gotten. This fall I haven't published as much as I'd like to, but any posts I have made were really well received!

2019 Goals and Resolutions

JCAT Score of 200

I took the JCAT a few months ago as a test for how far along I am with Japanese, and I was really disappointed with my score. I went into the test feeling rather confident I'd do well, but I actually got a few points lower than the last time I took it, which really shocked me. I lost a lot of my confidence and drive after getting my scores back, but I want to make it a point to improve on my old scores and get anywhere from 200-250 on the next JCAT test I take. I'm planning to take it again in May and then once more in December so I can have a good gauge of my progress within a 6 month or so timeline. 

Reach my first goal weight of 110

Instead of setting my ultimate goal weight (100) as the standard, I'm going to start with the weight I'd feel comfortable and happy reaching first, which is 110. From there I can decide if I want to press on further or just tone. I think this makes this goal easier to reach and more realistic! This 'weight loss' goal usually gets the X every year so I really want to accomplish this one for once!

Read an article a week

It's no secret that I dislike reading in Japanese. I get easily overwhelmed by long texts, and because I don't like to read and don't do it often I have very low reading stamina. I want to improve this as much as possible in 2019 as I've become hyper-aware of how much this issue affects my learning process. Almost all of the advice given to me on how to take my Japanese to the next level has instructed me to read, and I've actively been avoiding it because it's not enjoyable. It's time to bite the bullet and crack open those novels! 

Before I get to reading books, I want to warm up to reading by reading articles. This works because I can pick a topic I'm interested in and read about it, just like I would in English. I use the website Kinarino, which talks about minimalism, self-improvement and general lifestyle topics.

Save 10k by May

I have a really lofty goal of trying to save 10k by May 2019. If you say '10k by May' aloud it sounds really catchy, which is how I decided on the amount. Here's the kicker though: I started paying 500 dollars a month on student loans, which is making saving money a lot more difficult! I work two jobs while at school and bring in just about 1k a month, so it's going to be a difficult climb to 10k. So far I'm a little over halfway there so I hope I can actually get this done!

Minimalize My Life

This may be my one vague goal for the new year, but I'm not sure how to quantify what being minimal means to be other than 'less stuff'. I want to go through my childhood room and get rid of things I don't need, clothes I don't wear, etc. If I'm not actively using it, I don't really need it. Since I'm going to be graduating and moving to China (hopefully) for a bit, I'm not going to need any more than the necessities.

Get a job in China

This may be one of the most important things I accomplish, besides language learning. I want to make sure I can secure a position in China, hopefully, one that pays well! I'm planning to live with Amanda over there for a little over a year, so I'm hoping to get a position that's either in Wuxi or Shanghai. I'm leaning towards Wuxi because it's closer to her family and the rent is cheaper, but beggars can't be choosers. I'm doing my best to find a position through my company since they told me they would love to have me, but I may have to explore other avenues to compare wages and make sure I'm making what I should be!

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy new year, and thank you again for supporting me!